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April 2007

Interesting working paper on student evaluations of professors. While the author is particularly concerned about evaluations in law schools, a lot of the research she cites seems to apply to evaluations in general. Consider this:

Conventional student evaluations strongly mirror the professor’s smiles, gestures, and other mannerisms, rather than the professor’s knowledge, clarity, organization, or other qualities more clearly associated with good teaching. The way in which a professor walks into the room or smiles at the class can affect student ratings much more substantially than what the professor says or writes on the blackboard. [footnote omitted] Evaluations collected from students after no more than five minutes’ exposure to a professor accurately predict assessments gathered at semester’s end, leaving little doubt that these evaluations reflect relatively superficial behaviors. [footnote omitted]

To paraphrase Billy Crystal, "It is better to look good than to be good. And you look maahvelous!"

A Canadian psychologist tells a student newspaper that he once--in 1974--used LSD. The psychologist is stopped at the US border and made to sign a letter that he violated the U.S. Controlled Substances Act because U.S. customs officials had Googled him. (English translation; original article in French is here.) The psychologist might now be prevented from entering the U.S. for life.

Watch yourselves, people. Google Remembers All.

Link courtesy of my colleague, Denis Pelletier.

H. Jenkins on market definition

Not that there's a lot to choose from, but Holman Jenkins's column yesterday (Wall Street Journal; probably subscription only) was one of the funniest pieces on U.S. antitrust policy I've ever seen.

With an ingenuity no doubt born of a healthy consulting fee, a reputable economist who shall remain nameless recently produced an "analysis" arguing that satellite radio is a distinct marketplace for antitrust purposes because -- get this -- "indecent audio content has gravitated" to satellite radio as a result of federal indecency rules. . . .

"Market definition" has become a Kafkaesque cornucopia of pliable concepts to maximize the antitrust enforcer's opportunity to tyrannize over the private sector.